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A 90th birthday party for Max

90th birthday

The content in this post was provided by Devon Hutson, director, PPG Practices, and Melia Long, RN, site supervisor, FirstCare Walk-In Clinic, Huntington.

Over the years, Max has become not only a regular at the clinic, but a part of the family, especially since he doesn’t have anyone to call family outside of the clinic walls.

Max has developed a particularly special bond with nurse practitioner Bernadette Clark. Once a week, he stops by the clinic to say hello and complete his scheduled weight check with Bernadette. Outside the office, she calls Max at least once a week to make sure he’s doing OK. And on occasion, Bernadette takes him out to eat. (It’s important to her that Max gain and maintain a safe weight because in the past, his weight had dropped.)

90th birthday party

To help with meals, the team suggested Meals on Wheels but, Max didn’t qualify. So they brainstormed other ideas, such as making nutritional drinks available in the clinic for Max to take home. “Once, the team pitched in and sent groceries to his house – along with cat food, because his cats are near and dear to his heart,” Melia said. Eventually, they connected Max with a local meal ministry. Bernadette accompanied him initially to be sure he felt comfortable, and now, Max goes on his own and enjoys a hot meal every evening.

As Max’s 90th birthday approached, Bernadette shared the idea of a surprise party, and the team jumped at the chance. For weeks, they counted down the days until “Max’s party”, on a large calendar in the manager’s office.

They began collecting birthday cards. Bernadette’s goal was 90 cards for 90 years. Without compromising Max’s privacy, she asked friends and family to participate. Not wanting to be outdone, the FirstCare team and their families also pitched in for a total of 255 cards from nine states!

90th birthday

On Max’s big day, the team decorated the break room with balloons and a Happy Birthday banner. They brought in food for a carry-in lunch, complete with a special cake that read, “Happy 90th birthday, Max. From your Walk-in Family.”

As Bernadette escorted Max into the clinic, the staff’s rousing applause and vibrant voices singing the “Happy Birthday” song rendered him speechless. He told Bernadette, “I don’t even know what to say. I’ve never had anything like this before.”

90th birthday

The occasion was memorable for so many reasons. “In primary care, pediatrics or internal medicine, you do develop relationships with your patients,” Devon said. “But we’re an acute-care, episodic-care type of clinic, and to have providers and staff build relationships with patients like this is something really special.”

Happy birthday, Max! Wishing you all the best in the year to come.

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